On June 23rd 2013, the XXXVII World Heritage Committee Session in Phnom Penh entered the complex of 14 monumental villas, previously belonging to the Medici family between the 15th and 17th centuries in the Tuscany countryside, into the World Heritage list. The Medici villas, bought or built for the family for reasons of territorial control and then used as country houses for leisure and relax, are located in the provinces of Florence and Siena and form a fascinating and heterogeneous set of Renaissance and late Middle Ages buildings.
Newly built or adapted from castles and fortresses already present in the area, the Villas are varied in form, style and dimensions. They range from the austere and severe style of Villa La Magia di Quarrata, to the Renaissance style with classical elements of the Villa Medicea of Poggio a Caiano; from the solemn grandeur of Palazzo Pitti with its marvellous Italian style garden, Giardino dei Boboli, to the demure austerity of the Villa of Cafaggiolo, Lorenzo il Magnifico's favourite, with its forms that resemble the pre-existing castle.
Masterpieces of art and architecture known worldwide, whose reasons for interest are not limited to the magnificent and pictorial structures, but also to the stories that they witnessed. Intricate and passionate stories, sometimes as dark as in the best 19th century novels, still unknown to many since they happened far from the main Grand Duchy headquarters, and because they concerned private and lesser happenings of members of the powerful family. But that doesn’t make then any less interesting.
The Medicis were one of the richest, most famous and most important families of the Italian Renaissance. Rulers of Florence and several areas of Tuscany, from the Sienese to the Grosseto provinces, from the Apennine mountains to the sea, they had a crucial role in European and Italian history between the 15th and the 18th century. Three popes and two queens of France belonged to the Medicis, and many of the most important painters, architects and writers in history frequented their courts, from Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo, from Leon Battista Alberti to Brunelleschi, from Botticelli to Tiziano, from Marsilio Ficino to Angelo Poliziano. Their works make up of one of the most extraordinary art collections of human history, one of the few which has remained intact during the course of the centuries. When the last exponent of the family, Anna Maria Luisa, had to give up all of her properties to the Lorenas in 1737, she drew up the “Patto di Famiglia” (Family Deal), which stated that they couldn't “remove from the Capital of the Grand Duchy: galleries, paintings, statues, libraries, jewellery and other valuables in order for them to remain a state ornament, for public use and to attract the curiosity of foreigners”. A modern and democratic idea of artistic heritage, which prevented the Uffizi, the Bargello and the other Florentine museums’ collections from being sold or dispersed over the course of the decades, as happened in many other cities.
This extraordinary family, which includes some of the most legendary figures of history such as Lorenzo il Magnifico, Cosimo il Vecchio and Caterina de Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent, Cosimo the Elder and Catherine de Medici,) used to go to their countryside villas to relax, far away from the chaos and the intrigues of the palaces of power. And right here, in the discretion of their assets far from Florence, the family's bloody plots and cruel feuds took place.
The series of four 50-minute documentaries tells the stories of the main characters of Cosimo de Medici's family using the places where they happened as a backdrop. We'll see private events taking place in the private homes belonging to the complex of the Medici's Villas, portraying the characters in an intimate and human way; those who contributed to the history and culture of the times, as reported in all history books. We'll experience marriages, extramarital affairs and separations, murders, deaths and births, purchases, large renovation works and moments of deep indebtedness, cultural and artistic debates, ideological disputes, family feuds and much more. It will be like looking at history in a much more intimate and private way, but in a way that is still capable of showing us the motivations and the behaviour of some characters who were fundamental to the Italian Renaissance.
The documentaries will also explore in depth the architectural and artistic marvels of some of the most important Medici villas, from Palazzo Pitti, with its priceless art collections, to the severe Villa di Castello, from Villa de la Petraia, with its fantastic gardens facing Florence, to the elegant Villa of Poggio a Caiano.
We will visit a total of 9 Villas: Palazzo Pitti, Villa di Castello, Villa di Cerreto Guidi, Villa di Poggio Imperiale, Villa di Poggio a Caiano, Villa la Magia, Villa di Cafaggiolo and Villa La Petraia, Villa di Aritmico.
To guide us along this journey we will be joined by famous historians and art critics from the Superintendence of Architectural and Artistic assets of Florence and Tuscany. Alongside them, of course, we'll see the members of the Medici family through the reconstruction of the historical events, which will cover approximately half of each documentary.